An Improvement in the Water Quality of Small Rivers in Densely Populated Valleys: Self-purification and the Range of Essential Related Activities: Eco-engineering, Environmental Education, and Appropriate Action on the Part of the Local Authorities

Grant Recipient

"Ruthenia" Carpathian Ecological Club

Project Leader

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Andriy Kovalchuk


Dovzhenka St., 4, Apt. 6,
Uzhgorod city, Zakarpatska Oblast, 88000
Tel: +38 031 2232014


To find reasons for the decline in the ability of rivers to purify themselves and to explain how local anthropogenic factors influence the process; to develop a range of activities to remove the negative impacts from rivers and to devise practical recommendations for rehabilitating the Carpathian rivers in Ukraine.


  • to conduct a range of activities on river rehabilitation: to make an assessment of a river’s ability to purify itself; to find the sources and nature of the pollution;
  • to explain the situation to the local population and representatives of the local authorities; to give lectures in schools;
  • to conduct activities to rehabilitate the ugliest places (cleaning up the river bed, planting trees) and indicate the places that require further eco-engineering activity; to bring administrative influence to bear on those who violate environmental legislation;
  • to make speeches on the radio and TV; to prepare articles for newspapers;
  • to prepare a schematic map of sources of pollution and sites of erosion along the River Ug;
  • to monitor the current hydrological, hydrochemical and hydrobiological regimes of the River Ug and the general balance of organic substances and pollutants; to assess water quality;
  • to publish practical recommendations to rehabilitate the ecosystems of small rivers in the Carpathian mountain region.

Project Area

Zakarpatska Oblast


A general assessment was made of the ecological situation in the basin of the River Ug

The following main sources of pollution of the River Ug (a tributary of the transboundary River Uzh) were identified:

  • "sanitary" and forest regeneration felling in "Uzhansky" National Nature Park, which has been carried out in a way that is technically incorrect in terms of nature protection;
  • cars driving through the river due to the absence or inadequacy of bridges;
  • the establishment of unauthorised animal-waste disposal sites along the banks, which nega-tively affect water quality, especially in cold weather.

In Stuzhytsya village, through which the River Ug flows, there are no large farms or tractor sta-tions, so there is no pollution from these types of activities.

As both the River Ug and Stuzhytsya village are located in "Uzhansky" National Nature Park, which is part of the "Eastern Beskides" International Trilateral Biosphere Reserve, the valley of the Ug has potential for both tourism and recreation. Hence some members of "Ruthenia", together with students and the Village Head, climbed Mount Kreminets, which is on the border of the three countries, Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia. The aim of the activity was to study opportunities to de-velop tourism, which will encourage the local population to develop infrastructure in this field, as an alternative to the current extensive use of natural resources. Potential tourism development op-portunities were evaluated. As a result of the NGO's activity, opportunities were created to invest in building a tourism complex (the relevant agreement was signed between the village council and a business enterprise).

Many rare and endangered species of fauna and flora are found in the area. Butterflies Iphiclides podalirius (L.), Papilio machaon (L.), Apatura iris (L.), Limenitis populi (L.), Rosalia alpina (L.), etc. have all been recorded. The plant species include Scheuchzeria palustris (L.) and Lilium mart-agon (L.). The regionally very rare hydrophilous bush Myricaria germanica (L.) was found on the bank of one of the tributaries of the Ug (as the NGO discovered, this was the first record for the National Nature Park and one of several well known records of this species in Zakarpattya).


The current hydrological, hydrochemical and hydrobiological regime of the River Ug was moni-tored, and an assessment was made of the general balance of organic substances and pollutants and water quality

A number of colour maps of the basin of the Ug were produced in bitmap format.

A range of water quality analyses were made, defining the levels of pollution at each of four sam-pling points. It was found, in particular, that the level of oil pollution increased in those places where cars were driven through the river because the bridges were inadequate, therefore it was de-cided to co-finance the completion of a bridge across the River Ug.

Seasonal data were received on species composition, population dynamics and biomass of the sim-plest organisms and microzoobenthos at four stations on the Ug. A number of streams - tributaries of the Ug - were researched (additional single sampling points). Charts were produced for all the data received.

Research was conducted into the wetlands of the Ug basin. Four main types of wetlands were iden-tified (riparian wetlands, alder and fir bogs in the meadows, forest-alder bogs in among beech, and small bogs near the roads). The research data were used in the publication of the translated training-course, "Wetland Restoration" (Uzhgorod, 2004).

Experiments were carried out to study the seasonal intensity of production-destruction processes at four points (in summer, autumn, winter and spring).


A number of eco-engineering activities were conducted:

  • the riverbed and banks and of some its tributaries were cleared of litter;
  • eroded river banks were stabilised by means of tree planting; the majority of the trees planted (willow, alder, maple, etc.) rooted successfully; trees destroyed by cattle were to be seen only on the upper part of the stabilised land;
  • a bridge was built where the river was polluted by oil-based products;
  • cattle breeding entails the discharge of pollutant waste matter; three modern storage facilities were built to ensure that liquid animal waste does not flow into the river. Although these facili-ties cannot totally prevent discharges of pollutant liquids into the river, they provide an example of environmentally acceptable storage.
  • In order to improve water aeration and stabilise the hydrological regime near bridges as well as to create more favourable conditions to increase fish resources, a number of weirs were built. The weirs were very effective, especially during the last large summer flood. Using different technology, a weir was built on the Paporotna tributary; at present, this weir is used to raise young fish.


A number of educational activities were conducted:

  • schoolchildren heard a lecture on the environmental state of the Ug river basin at a local school; environmental literature was provided free of charge in order to improve the educational proc-ess;
  • a competition called "Save Your River" was organised, and prizes were awarded to the winners;
  • "Danube Day" was celebrated at the local school (29 June 2004); information about this was sent in English to the Danube Environmental Forum (DEF) and placed on its web site. "Trembita" newspaper published an article by the journalist, Vasyl Zubach, devoted to the cele-bration of "Danube Day";
  • discussions were held with the population with the aim of enforcing the ban on washing cars in the river;
  • discussions were held with the population in order to prevent poaching using electrified fishing rods to stun fish. After the discussions this type of fishing ceased, and fishing is now practised traditionally, by hand and by rod fishing.


A local public environmental organisation was established

A new NGO, "Zakarpattya Hydro-ecological Society 'Uzh'", was established in Stuzhytsya village, Velyko-Bereznyansky Rayon. The goal of the NGO is to study the waterbodies and water courses of the region. It encourages active public involvement in environmental projects.


Administrative action was taken against violators of environmental legislation

Forests cover only around 16% of Ukraine, which is insufficient for a European country. For exam-ple, 66% of Finland is covered by forest, Sweden - 55-56%, France - about 30%. In Ukraine, only the Carpathian region has good forest cover; 20-21% of all forests are found here. However, forests are not being well managed. The reason for this is the inadequate state control system. As facts show, the main violations take place during felling for "intermediate use", which by volume is lar-ger than industrial forest felling (felling for "main" use). For this reason, the decrease in industrial forest felling has a negative effect on the state of forest resources. If in the past "general sanitary felling" was the most dangerous in terms of forest management, now "selective sanitary" and "for-est regeneration" felling cause the greatest problems. As a rule, more trees are cut down during such felling than the quota permits. Nature reserves experience similar problems.

The situation in "Uzhansky" National Nature Park is no different. The publication of an article by project team leader, Professor Andriy Kovalchuk, "How long will the illegal axe go on falling? More about the barbaric felling of Carpathian forests" in "Silski visti" newspaper (#53, 12 May 2004), inspired a number of checks on whether foresters in Uzhansky Park were complying with environmental legislation. Checks were made by the Forestry Committee of Ukraine, State Depart-ment of Environmental and Natural Resources in Zakarpatska Oblast and Ecological Inspection of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, in particular. This brought to light a number of violations of the law, leading to the dismissal of a female forester from Novostuzhytska Forestry and fining of other foresters. Fines amounting to thousands of hryvnas were passed on to forest users to compensate for the damage to the environment.

Together with the State Inspector of Velyko-Bereznyanska Inspectorate, the NGO monitored "sanitary felling" along the River Ug above Stuzhytsya village. A special report was prepared on the violations identified; the case was sent to court to claim compensation for the damage.


A number of proposals were prepared and implemented

Proposals were presented to the Village Council and rayon administration, the state enterprise "In-ter-Institutional Laboratory for Environmental Problems and Radioactive Safety of the Carpathians Region" of the National Academy of Sciences, and State Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Zakarpatska Oblast. The newly established "Uzh" Hydro-ecological Society produced a number of proposals concerning waste treatment around Stuzhytsya village, which is both an ac-tual and potential source of pollution on the Ug.

The village does not have a telephone connection, and this can be a problem in the event of emer-gencies caused by pollution or gastrointestinal infections (some local people use water straight from the river). In relation to this, a request was made to the People's Deputy to restore the functions of local telephone substation in Stuzhytsya village. The resolution of this issue is in the pipeline.

The results of project activities were mentioned in a talk on Oblast TV in September 2003, and were featured in the local press. One publication was devoted entirely to Stuzhytsya village, its problems and project activities, and another discussed the issue of illegal forest felling.


© 2005 Ukrainian Rivers Network
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